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Bishop's Column

Bishop Barbarito Column


Homily – National Eucharistic Revival Close Holy Hour
Cathedral of Saint Ignatius Loyola
June 6, 2024


The Eucharist is the Highway to Heaven

“The Eucharist is the highway to heaven.” These words were spoken by a young man, Carlo Acutis, who has been beatified by the Church and whose canonization as a teenage saint has been approved by Pope Francis. He died in 2006 from leukemia but lived a full, vibrant and joy-filled life, causing him to be popular among his peers as well as those older than he. He has been referred to by Pope Francis as “a role model for young people.” Carlo expressed that, “All people are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.” His great love for the Eucharist inspired him to use his skills as a gamer and computer programmer to put together a narrative of Eucharistic miracles throughout the world in the centuries of the Church. Carlo’s spirit came from his love for the Eucharist, and he urged all to adore the Eucharist since, in his words, “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that we on this earth will have a foretaste of heaven.”

The miracle of the Eucharist enables us to see that God is always acting in our lives at every moment in what seems to be the most ordinary of events. There is nothing more ordinary than bread and wine, and yet these become the Body and Blood of Christ, God’s presence in our midst. The Eucharist still looks like bread and wine, and only faith perceives the presence of Christ. Through reception of the Eucharist, we come into communion with Christ Himself, who leads us into the depths of God’s being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through this union with God, we come into communion with each other in the fullest way.

Through the miracle of the Eucharist, our faith, hope and love are intensified, and it is through these that we know God’s miraculous presence in our lives. Through the miracle of the Eucharist, we grow in virtue and in our ability to overcome sin. By ourselves, we are unable to overcome evil. It is Christ’s saving action in His Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, celebrated in the Eucharist, which strengthens us in this regard. Through the miracle of the Eucharist, we receive a peace and joy that are unattainable in any other manner. Through the miracle of the Eucharist, we are able to see that every person is made in the image and likeness of God and that life itself is indeed a miracle. The miracle of the Eucharist gives us the vision to see that all events are extraordinary since they are touched by God. Carlo Acutis had this vision.

A great 20th-century piece of literature, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, reflected upon a family in the first part of the 20th century facing many of the difficulties and challenges that we all face in life. The story is set in the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before and during the First World War and immediately prior to the 1918 influenza outbreak. While there is poverty, issues of immigration, addiction, misunderstanding, family difficulties and all of the characteristics of the human condition, the story is not a negative one but a very positive one focusing on the power of the strength of family and the need for determination. A young girl, Francie, is the center of the story as she perseveringly grows in Williamsburg despite the challenges. An important element that reveals itself in the course of the narrative is the positive strength of Catholic faith, especially in the Eucharist.

One of the most moving scenes of the book is when Francie, now a young woman, attends Mass with her family at Christmas. The narrative recounts, “Francie believed with all her heart that the altar was Calvary and that again Jesus was offered up as a sacrifice. As she listened to the Consecrations, one for His Body and one for His Blood, she believed that the words of the priest were a sword which mystically separated the Blood from the Body. And she knew, without knowing how to explain why, that Jesus was entirely present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the wine in the golden chalice and in the bread on the golden plate.” The novel states, “‘It’s a beautiful religion,’ she mused, ‘and I wish I understood it more. No, I don’t want to understand it all. It’s beautiful because it’s always a mystery, like God Himself is a mystery.’”

As we face all of the challenges in our own lives, we realize that we possess the gift of the mystery of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present within the Eucharist. It is this mystery which gives us the ability to have hope and to know that God is with us even in the most difficult of circumstances. We can never lose touch with the Eucharist, for if we do, we can lose touch with the loving and healing presence of God. When we celebrate Mass, we enter into the very action of the Lord. Space and time are literally suspended and the action of Jesus Christ in His Passion, Death and Resurrection are truly before us.

Pope Francis has spoken frequently on the centrality of the Eucharist within the life of the Church and of the need for all of us, especially in our noisy world, to spend time before the Real Presence of the Lord in silence to hear His word and experience His love. Recently, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the pope expressed, “The Eucharistic bread is the Real Presence. This speaks to us of a God, who is not distant, who is not jealous, but close in solidarity with humanity; a God who does not abandon us, but always seeks, waits for and accompanies us, even to the point of placing Himself, helpless, into our hands. And His Real Presence also invites us to be close to our brothers and sisters, where love calls us. … Our world desperately needs this bread, with its fragrance and aroma, which knows about gratitude, freedom and closeness.” The words of Blessed Carlo Acutis, soon to be canonized by Pope Francis, are so appropriate: “The Eucharist is the highway to heaven.” 

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito